At the beginning of September 2013 I started a new life that was different and better than the one I had been living. I moved into an apartment in Chicago with two roommates I met on Craigslist, determined to start entirely from scratch. I was not a pioneering risk-taker moving without the security of gainful employment, but I did move without owning a bed, or any furniture for that matter. I didn’t have bath towels, or kitchen knives, or a vacuum. I did have wine glasses and a cocktail shaker.
I started thinking about how to cut other costs while I was spending what is to me an alarming amount of money on apartment furnishings, and the solution I devised was to give up alcohol for the entire month of September.
I am a person who typically has at least one drink three to five nights out of the week. This venture in no way seemed like fun. Instead, it became a challenge.
More Room for Productivity and Health
The first mistake I made was assuming I’d go out with friends and simply not order anything. This is incorrect. If I hadn’t forgone most social engagements revolving around drinks, I never would have made it. Instead I kept to myself most weekends, finding solace in all the new neighborhood coffee shops at my disposal and all the caffeinated work I could accomplish, because it wasn’t like I had anywhere else to be on a Friday night at 8pm when I was decidedly NOT drinking.
It was rainbow-magic productivity time and a giant fuck you to my social life—I saw almost no friends for the entire month. But I was getting enough sleep and waking up at incredibly early hours for the weekend, which is how I got back into my running routine, and how I was able to kick-start this blog into existence.
A Lesson in Moderation
Even though I was purposely avoiding situations in which I’d be tempted to have a drink, I couldn’t avoid them entirely. I can mostly thank my job for this. I work at a boutique PR agency and September happened to be a busy month full of events and parties to work. So I had plenty of practice saying no not only to champagne but to champagne that was free. The benefits being 1) that you can focus on doing your job and not on how many glasses to consume before you verge on unprofessional, and 2) abstaining from complimentary booze in the same proximity as your boss will at the very least absolutely not get you into trouble and at the very most make you slightly impressive.
Save Your Money
You know what adds up?
All the booze.
The fries you order with your whiskey, the pizza delivered to the apartment party, the cab ride home after a night of drunken cavorting.
These are all expenses that vanish when you opt to stay in on a Friday or Saturday night and, say, fix a nice dinner and catch up on your reading or get ahead on some work (see Jen Dziura’s advice on using hours/times of year most people aren’t working to get ahead here and here).
I’m not suggesting that going out is a not-so-great thing to do. When you’re young and vibrant and single especially, please do go out often and with purpose. Make it about socializing, meeting new people, enjoying good drinks and killing it on a dance floor; a night out can be just as productive as a day of work. If we didn’t make our social lives somewhat of a priority we’d be missing a grand piece of the puzzle, as it were. But for most of us, it’s financially impractical to go out every Friday and Saturday night, so I find it worthwhile to practice re-framing a night in as another kind of opportunity for productivity. Take to a relaxed night of reading, catch up on lower priority work-related tasks that have been on the back-burner for days, or do some mindless cleaning around the apartment if your brain power is exhausted. Whatever you do, get to bed early and tackle the next morning with panache because you got a good night’s sleep and didn’t wake up hung-over. If I can get a four-mile run, a shower and a trip to the farmer’s market out of the way before 10:30am on a Sunday, the world is mine for the taking, and I feel pretty excellent whether I end up writing at a coffee shop or at home reading and napping for the rest of the day.